Winter is in full force. Ice skating, sipping hot chocolate, and gathering on the couch to watch classic Christmas movies such as Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, or Home Alone. With growing viewership and online discourse, it’s imperative to acknowledge Hallmark channel and its films as a competitor amongst the classics. Full of cliché romantic tropes and redundant plots, their simplistic yet spirited nature can’t be beaten. Grab your popcorn and tune in. It’s time to indulge in the season’s guilty pleasure.
Over the past decade, Hallmark has gone all out in showcasing original, holiday themed original films as a part of its annual Countdown to Christmas. Like many others, the network’s eagerness to enjoy the season is abundant. The movie marathon kicked off the last week of October and stretches until January 1st. More than enough time for premieres and binge watching.
This year alone Hallmark is currently unveiling 40 new movies. If you’re busy, no worries – all movies are on a continuous loop 24/7.
The lineup of each movie follows the same plot. A workaholic returns to their hometown where they reconvene with their high school sweetheart, fall in love, and learn themes of magic, hope, generosity, and family. There are, of course, occasional differences to include variety yet all of them are heavily steeped in the Christmas spirit.
Sets dressed in tinsel, lights strung in every scene, extras wearing red and green, and the main character almost always named Holly, Noelle, Eve, or Mary (sometimes spelled Merry). Understandably, the cheesy attributes aren’t for everyone. Looking to expand its horizons, the network chose to revitalize traditional storylines, much to the dismay of CEO Bill Abbott and appointed “Queen of Christmas” Candace Cameron-Bure who exited due to the shift in content.
Subverting old traditions, past criticisms, and former management there’s a breath of fresh air with stories that go beyond the surface. Families are representative of actual families. Audiences are introduced to found families, blended families, and same-sex couples.
Audiences are introduced to found families, blended families, and same-sex couples as seen in The Holiday Sitter and The Christmas House. One dimensional characters have developed depth, reexamining their thoughts and actions that ultimately lead to personal growth. There are acts of kindness to inspire you such as donating to a food pantry or volunteering at a community shelter. And amongst the dozens of Christmas movies, Hallmark has made way for Hanukkah and Kwanza, offering a look into time honored traditions and the rich history embedded in the celebrations. While the roots are the same, there’s an added sense of representation, meaning, and warmth from scene to scene. It’s gratifying when what is seen on the screen is reflective of broader culture and collective experiences during the December month – and everyone still gets a happy ending.
With an added flare Hallmark has found its niche. It may be a formula but it’s a formula that works. Last year Hallmark stood as the number one rated channel with an estimated 24 million viewers. And I tune in, every single time. It was years ago I decided to join in on the festivities.
Bogged down by my college semester I was looking for a light at the end of the hectic, overwhelming tunnel. Out of sheer curiosity I opted to participate in holiday cheer hoping to seek some amusement and poke fun at minor plot holes. I realized later hours had passed, and after consuming one after the other it dawned on me, I truly enjoyed what was on the television before me. At one point I found myself wondering if the main character could truly keep her family’s Christmas cookie business afloat and save her small town of Evergreen.
The dialogue may be unsurprising and the CGI snow always comes at the central point in the story, but there’s nothing quite like Hallmark movies. An overwhelming amount of us struggle during the holidays. The darkness of daylight savings settling in amongst the twinkling lights and shiny ornaments. At the end of a rough day, it’s a tool of escapism. The movies serve to entertain and even amuse at the high and low points of the season. For an hour and a half, we can enjoy the endearing “meet cute” of the central couple, the pleasures of warmth and family around the fire, and the overt kindness of the fictional town’s community. If there’s extra space on your DVR, or you’re looking for downtime, take a break from reality and give in to the films that have millions, like me, hooked time and again.